It feels weird to be writing about beach photos on this 50-degree October day. My fingers are too cold to type about summer vacation! But that’s what I get for procrastinating a couple weeks. Here is the second half of my photos from our vacation last month to Corolla, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. You can find part 1 of these photos here. I’m writing a little bit about the compositional and technical choices I made for each of my vacation photos. The first set of pictures went over well, so I hope you enjoy the second set.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I brought only one camera body (Canon 5DII) and two lenses (70-200 f4 and 16-35 f2.8) on this trip. I brought no flash or other lighting equipment. I thought the technical simplicity of these photos would make them helpful examples for novice photographers to learn about my shooting process.
This sunset photo is one of my favorites from the trip. It was the view from the backyard of our rental house, which faced the Currituck Sound on the west side of Corolla. I love the way the sun dissolves into the water. My goal here was symmetry. I kept the horizon in the center of the screen, and an even amount of orange on the top and the bottom. The sun is one third of the way from the left, which is sort of consistent with the Rule of Thirds. (Except I wanted the sun centered vertically.) I shot it at 200mm to eliminate any light blue sky or water, and to make the sun look as big as possible. As with any landscape photo, I kept the horizon straight. Crooked horizons are a no-no for most pictures.
Last week we spent the final days of summer on vacation with my family in Corolla, North Carolina. We stayed in a waterfront rental house with my dad and my cousin and her family. Unfortunately my mother wasn’t able to attend, due to a work conflict. We missed her! But the rest of us had a wonderful week of beach time, biking, kayaking, and sight-seeing. Danny hasn’t stopped talking about the beesh (beach) and the bool (pool) ever since we got home. I loved seeing him so happy.
I thought that I would post the pictures along with brief descriptions of the technical and compositional decisions behind each one. I hope this will be helpful for novice photographers out there!
I took only two lenses on this trip: a Canon 16-35mm f2.8, and a Canon 70-200mm f4. That’s my most common way of packing light when I travel for vacation. If I want to pack very light, I bring only the Canon 24-70mm f2.8, because it is a great mid-range lens with lots of general usefulness. If I have room for two lenses, I prefer bringing a wide angle and a lightweight telephoto. Lenses with extreme focal lengths make for more dramatic photos than normal focal length lenses can offer. I like a little drama.
For this photo of the geese, I used the 70-200 at f4. I saw the flock of geese resting on the lawn by the Whalehead Club while the landscape crew was mowing the grass. I knew that the lawnmowers would eventually inspire the geese to fly away, so I hurried over toward them and waited. Sure enough, they took off shortly thereafter. I squatted low in the grass to make sure the geese would appear above the horizon in my photo, to enhance the sense of flight.
Those pants fit me last summer. I don’t think I’d realized just how far I’ve come until I looked through pictures today.
I reached Lifetime status with Weight Watchers this week. I feel like I could still stand to lose a few (don’t we all?), but I’m proud of my accomplishment and I feel great.
Here are my stats:
Weight: 180 to 136
BMI: 28.2 to 21.1
Size: 14 to 6
Percent weight loss: 21.4%
My advice for anyone on Weight Watchers is to do everything the plan tells you to do. Follow every rule. My weight loss didn’t happen until I stopped resisting the plan, and started embracing it. WW is a solid program that really works.
Danny went on his first hike yesterday! We’ve taken him hiking several times, but this is the first time that we let him walk part of the way. He was downright giddy. I think we have a young outdoorsman in our family!
Mike, Danny, Ally, and I drove to Cunningham Falls State Park in Maryland. After an hour and a half, we arrived eager to see the waterfall, lake, and beach. Then we saw the “no pets” sign at the entrance. My heart sank. Well who needs a park that is so crowded that they don’t want Ally there? We found a deserted trail in nearby Catoctin Mountain Park, and Ally got to run around without disturbing anyone. It was just right.
Today Mike and I decided to brave the heat and head to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to see the National Aquarium. Danny got to see fish, turtles, dolphins, and jellyfish.
I guess we weren’t the only people seeking indoor entertainment today, because the aquarium was packed. We weren’t allowed to use our stroller inside, so Mike carried Dan the whole time. He’s going to be sore tomorrow! But with a few exceptions, Danny was cooperative and seemed to enjoy the day. I was excited to be a tourist for a day. It felt like a mini-vacation.
We decided to have what Mike calls a Random Day yesterday. He says some of the best ideas originate from unexpected experiences. We took a lot of random road trips when we lived in Colorado, back before we had a baby and we could just drive into the mountains with no agenda. I love those memories.
We ended up spending our Fourth of July in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and then back home at our neighborhood in Reston.
What do you do when it’s 95 degrees, and your power has been out all weekend, and you are fun parents? You take your daughter wine tasting. My parents have had no power ever since Friday night’s huge storm, so they’ve been camping out in our air conditioning.
By Sunday afternoon we got restless, so we decided to brave the heat and go to some Virginia wineries. Mike and Danny stayed home to watch the Euro Cup final, and to nap, respectively. My parents and I headed out I-66 west to The Winery at La Grange, which was decorated with cheery American flags. We sat outside on the shady lawn, sipped some white, and ignored the temperatures. It was just what we all needed.
I got this message recently on Facebook.
Charlotte, I enjoyed your DC run. Can you write about protein bars? I am using shakes in the morning and a bar in the afternoon in between sensible food… Wondered about your thoughts. Your joy in fitness helps me.
I’d be happy to share my thoughts, but first I want to add a disclaimer that I am no expert in medicine or nutrition. I can definitely share what works for me, though.
Here’s my new buddy. I named him Mortimer. He and I sat together for about five minutes this morning at a dock at Lake Newport. Does’t he look like a cartoon character? I couldn’t believe that he let me hold my iPhone a few inches from his face to get this picture.
Sitting there in the morning sunshine with my buddy Mort was blissful, but the rest of my run was tougher. I set out at 7am for my weekend long run, and it was already a hot steam oven. The highs here in the DC area have been around 100 lately, and today’s humidity is especially intense.
We had a brutal storm Friday night, with winds up to 79mph here in Reston. Mike and I are so lucky to have power, because it seems that almost everyone else in the mid-Atlantic is out. My parents are staying with us in our A/C until their power is restored.
Today’s run gave me a chance to see some of the storm damage. If you enjoy looking at blurry iPhone pictures of broken trees, this is your lucky day!
The photo on the left was taken with an iPhone 4s.
The photo on the right was taken with a Canon 5DII and an 85mm f1.8 lens.
There is a difference.
Sure, lots of people say that it’s not the camera that matters, but the person behind the camera. That’s true, to a point. But the same person (me) took the two photos above, in the same conditions, with the same amount of talent. The DSLR just had the sensor clarity, lens sharpness, aperture, and shutter responsiveness required to make the picture vastly better.
If you are taking all your family photos with your cell phone, please consider investing in a good camera. Current phone camera technology is way behind the rest of the camera industry. The quality is just not close to what you’d get with other cameras. Even a $100 point-and-shoot camera is a huge improvement over your $300 camera phone. The lens in a point-and-shoot is sharper and the sensor are clearer than anything you’ll find in a 2012 cell phone.
If you can afford a DSLR with a fast lens, that is even better. You can look into used cameras to save money. Look into cameras from 2009 or 2010 if you’re interested in used gear. A consumer DSLR, such as the Canon Rebel, is a great choice for amateurs. Be sure to choose quality lenses, because the quality of an image is highly dependent on the quality of the lens. For the sake of this demonstration, I used a 2009 camera body and a $350 lens. You don’t have to choose the most expensive gear on the market for great photos.
Here are a few of the reasons why this DSLR picture is better than the cell phone picture:
The phone picture is fuzzy and dull. The DSLR picture is crisp, clear, and vibrant, due to its superior sensor and lens.
2. Motion blur
The phone didn’t stop the blur of his hands. The DSLR’s high ISO and fast lens enabled me to use a fast enough shutter speed.
3. Shutter lag
The phone doesn’t respond instantly when I push the button, so I couldn’t catch his eyes open. The DSLR responds immediately.
Your kids deserve great photos of their childhoods. When they are all grown up, they’ll look back at 2012 phone camera technology and think how primitive it was. Because it is. But the rest of our digital camera technology is excellent, and I urge you to use it. Give your family photos that they will still love 50 years in the future.
Pull out your good camera for special occasions. If you can’t afford a good camera, hire a professional. Ideally, hire a professional once a year, even if you do have a nice camera. If you can’t afford to hire someone, borrow a friend’s camera once in a while. Just don’t rely entirely on your phone.
It’s important for me to mention that no matter what camera you buy, the quality of your photos will depend on your understanding of the equipment. Read the manual, take classes, learn what you’re doing. Or hire a professional. Because your kids are worth it.
Mike and I spent the day with my parents and our niece and nephews. A summer day doesn’t get any better than a water park, a pizza picnic, banana splits, dining al fresco by a lake, an outdoor concert, and lots of time with family.
This is a great shot that my Dad took of me with my two nephews at the Water Mine here in Reston. This park is so much fun for the kids that we’ve taken them there twice this week. And as you can see, it’s also fun for at least one grown-up I know.
Hi, I’m Charlotte! I’m a photographer in Reston, Virginia. I love hiking, running, and exploring the world with my husband and young son.